The self-care movement is getting a lot of attention these days. Some Christians think it’s bad, while others emphasize it to the brim. But allow me to focus how this movement affects Christian mothers directly, who are either praised or criticized for exercising self-care. Yes, a mother’s Sabbath rest is ultimately found in Jesus. But if we are honest, most mothers don’t get the weekends off. Sundays can be a stressful time for a mother and her baby.
We’ve been there before. We’ve thrown off the weekly routine that we’ve worked so hard for only to get disrupted because of church. Surely, we don’t want mama to leave her baby at home. We want her to bring the baby with her to church for infants and children are as much part of the church family as the adults are. Mothers need a lot of helping hands, whether we admit it or not. If we can’t find it in our own nuclear families, that’s where the church community should step in.
Mothers themselves should also welcome help. Some of the problems we face are often self-inflicted if we refuse hospitality from others who offer it. Rest, if you must. Eat, or you’ll not survive. Step outside for a while. Ask for help. Welcome help as well. Rosaria Butterfield said it best in her book, The Gospel Comes With a House Key:
Radically ordinary hospitality means that hosts are not embarrassed to receive help, and guests know that their help is needed. A family of God gathering daily together needs each and every person. Host and guest are permeable roles.
Radically ordinary hospitality lived out in the family of God gathers daily, prays constantly, and needs no invitation to do so…
We practice radically ordinary hospitality by bearing sacrifices of obedience that God’s people are called to offer. We don’t think we are more merciful than God, so we don’t encourage people to sin against him or violate what the Word of God says. We lament. We soberly know that God calls us to bear heavy and hard crosses, self-denials that feel like death. We trust God’s power more than we trust our limitations, and we know that he never gives a command without giving the grace to perform it. But we know that the struggle is insurmountable alone. When radically ordinary hospitality is lived out, members of God’s household are told that they are not alone in their struggles or their joys.
Dear mama, we can’t bring up our children alone. Covenant children aren’t only raised by their parents themselves, the church community also takes the vow in helping them raise up the children. Practically, this means getting mothers their much needed breather, for example, by sending ready meals to their home after she had just given birth. Offer to clean her house or watch the little children for a while. It could also look like carrying their babies on the Lord’s Day for them to be able to get to the restroom alone. Other times, it could look like carrying the heavy diaper bag or watching the frisky toddler for a while as she nurses or feeds the baby. Or listening to her talk about what she did for the week. If you’re single, perhaps learn a thing or two about domestic responsibilities. Don’t pretend to be interested, but really listen. If you’re an experienced parent, encourage mom to keep caring for her children by staying in the home. Perhaps that could have been the only adult conversation she had the whole week. Then if you’re a guy, challenge the father to chip in as much as he can. Other dads do need a little more encouraging than some. It’s the little things. But they mean a whole lot.
Self-care movement’s problem is not the emphasis on care, but it’s emphasis on the self. But Scripture calls us to mutuality and reciprocity. Just as Christians cannot live their lives and grow properly by themselves, so do tired and worn mothers need the life-giving message of the Gospel through the preached Word and visible sacraments every Lord’s Day, along with the love and support of her church family, no matter which season she finds herself in. This is how Paul encouraged the Corinthians:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ESV
We share the joys of motherhoood, the challenges of child-rearing, and the glory of Christ’s sufferings, with each other as members of the Body who are similarly united to Jesus. The self is best taken care of in the “one-anotherness,” or the shared giving and receiving of the same comfort we find in the Gospel, manifested through the Body of Christ. Jesus came into the world in order to live and die for sinners, and he was raise up on the third day for our salvation. The Gospel is the life-giving message and comfort that we all Christians have in common, whether we are young or old, married or single, rich or poor, etc.
Removing yourself from the crowd may be good, in some sense, for a time such as private prayer and devotion. But seclusion from the church, in order to find ourselves, is never a good idea. The church defines we who are because Jesus is the Head. It is in the church Body that we find our identity. Our baptism marks who we are and whom we belong to—God is ours, and we are His.
Mama, don’t shy away from church fellowship. You need family. And they need you, too.
I wrote this a year ago on my personal Facebook wall and posted here with some changes.